$4M to help kids eat more veggies

New VegKit program to lift kids' vegetable consumption

Horticulture
HEALTHY: The new VegKit initiative from Hort Innovation is aimed at increasing the vegetable consumption of children through education and inspiration.

HEALTHY: The new VegKit initiative from Hort Innovation is aimed at increasing the vegetable consumption of children through education and inspiration.

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Despite a name double-up, VegKit aims to get more kids eating their veggies.

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THE old threat of "no dessert" has been pushed aside in favour of explaining health benefits in a new campaign to get kids eating more vegetables.

The VegKit project will deliver a free toolkit for educators, health professionals and research agencies.

Each kit includes information on dietary guidelines, and evidence-based knowledge of flavour exposure and food preference.

But in a possible awkward coincidence, VegKit.com is also the name of an initiative of the controversial group, Animals Australia.

The name double-up could even play into the vegetable industry's favour with the Animals Australia site offering plant-based recipes and a free vegetarian starter kit.

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Hort Innovation announced the $4 million research and development project on Monday, saying it will take place over five years.

The aim is to increase children's daily intake of fresh produce by more than half a serving per day.

Delivered through a collaboration between CSIRO, Flinders University and Nutrition Australia, the project will investigate the influencers behind kids' exposure to, and acceptance of vegetables through behavioural and produce innovations.

AIM: Part of a CSIRO info graphic which outlines the activities being undertaken as part of the VegKit project.

AIM: Part of a CSIRO info graphic which outlines the activities being undertaken as part of the VegKit project.

Hort Innovation general manager for research, marketing and investment, David Moore, said the project would help to establish a national framework promoting the importance of vegetable consumption for improved health outcomes in children.

"The VegKit project will bring together a number of research and educational resources with the ultimate aim of increasing a child's vegetable intake by more than half a serving per day," Mr Moore said.

"In that view, there is potential to increase demand for fresh produce by 19,000 tonnes per year if every child (aged two to six years) increases consumption by greater than half a serving - demonstrating a great return on research investment.

Stagnant vegetable consumption has become a concern for the industry with the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) Agricultural Commodities Report for the 2019 March quarter showing per person vegetable consumption in Australia has not increased significantly over the past six years.

NAME GAME: An image taken from Animals Australia's website, VegKit.com, which is unrelated to the latest Hort Innovation campaign.

NAME GAME: An image taken from Animals Australia's website, VegKit.com, which is unrelated to the latest Hort Innovation campaign.

Earlier this year, results from a Deakin University's Centre for Advanced Sensory Science showed children's vegetable consumption could be increased by serving carrots as a snack food during entertainment.

Last month also saw Hort Innovation revamp the Veggycation campaign including an update of the Veggycation website which features the nutrition, origins, health benefits of vegetables, plus cooking and storage tips for more than 80 vegetables.

CSIRO project lead, Dr David Cox, said vegetables were important for long term good eating habits and overall health, but surveys suggest 95 per cent of Australian children weren't eating enough.

Unfortunately, it's not as simple as putting more vegetables on the plate. - Dr David Cox, CSIRO

"Unfortunately, it's not as simple as putting more vegetables on the plate," he said.

"This project is about getting children to enjoy vegetables, using knowledge about the development of taste preferences, and then using this information to find practical ways of addressing the problem.

"Part of this work will include revising dietary advice to mothers, working with childcare providers to improve children's experiences of vegetables and working with industry to make vegetable products more appetising for children."

According to Hort Innovation, the five-year project will deliver six key activities:

  1. Best practice guidelines to increase vegetable intake
  2. A national online register of initiatives to increase vegetable intake
  3. Further development and coordination of the Vegetable Intake Strategic Alliance (VISA)
  4. Updated dietary advice for maternal, infant and early years, using evidence-based knowledge of flavour exposure and food preference development, to facilitate children's vegetable intake.
  5. Initiatives in the community (for long day-care settings) to increase children's vegetable intake
  6. Supply chain initiatives (industry innovations and early primary school settings) to increase children's vegetable intake.
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